Major Oil and Gas Producers Back EU’s Efforts to Strengthen Methane Rules

An oil rig with the sun setting behind it

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Dec 5, 2023

Europe agreed to new rules clamping down on methane emissions, more potent than all other greenhouse gases. The European Parliament worked with the Council on EU Regulation to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, obliging oil, gas, and coal companies to capture or prevent methane emissions.

Major oil and gas producers that have already invested in mitigation efforts support the movement to regulate methane releases. Moreover, companies like Shell, Equinor, BP, Total, Statoil, and EQT are thinking long-term: without methane controls, the world can’t limit temperature increases, which then dampens the prospects for natural gas usage.

“As we head to COP28, it is great news that the EU has one more law to demonstrate to our international partners that we are delivering on our climate targets,” said Wopke Hoekstra, Commissioner for Climate Action, in a news release. “Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and it plays an important role in global warming. We now have the tools to reduce it more quickly and continue our work towards becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.”

UN report said that methane emissions are on the rise once again globally: agriculture is responsible for 40% of those releases. Fossil fuels, comparatively, contribute 35%, while landfills make up 20%. The fossil fuel sector is ripe for change because the current technologies to limit escaping methane now exist — something that could take a bite out of rising temperatures. Notably, methane is 84 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years.

Using promising technologies, the UN aims to cut those heat-trapping emissions by 45% by 2030.

As for the EU, it will require oil and gas operators to measure their methane releases and report those results regularly. If there are leaks, they must address them on strict timetables. The rule bans routine natural gas venting and flaring, a leading cause of methane emissions. And exporters must follow the same monitoring, reporting, and verification processes in 2027.

Win-Win Policy

The EU is leading international action to tackle methane emissions. Together with the United States, it launched the Global Methane Pledge at the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Glasgow in 2021. Europe, the United States, Japan, Canada, Norway, Singapore, and the United Kingdom adopted a Joint Declaration from Energy Importers and Exporters on Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels, committing to take rapid action to reduce methane emissions at last year’s COP27 in Egypt.

“Tackling methane emissions is a win-win policy,” said Maroš Šef?ovi?, executive vice president for the European Green Deal.

While the effort to curb methane emissions has broad political and corporate support, the smaller oil and gas developers still have reservations. They may need more capital to invest in methane controls.

Each year, about 75 million metric tons of methane escapes during oil and gas production or is flared — burned because the natural gas cannot get from the well to a production facility. That’s according to the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook. But if producers captured and resold or reused the methane, they could profit or defray the cost of buying new technologies.

Industry’s Methane Outlook

The outlook is promising. The International Energy Agency estimates that the industry can reduce its worldwide emissions by 75%. Meanwhile, ICF International said oil and gas companies could cut their emissions by 40% below the projected 2018 levels. And it wouldn’t be expensive — less than one cent per thousand cubic feet of natural gas produced.

That is why some of the biggest oil and gas companies have pledged to continually cut their methane emissions and improve the accuracy of their data. The companies will push regulators to strengthen policies to achieve those ends, facilitating the EU’s most recent actions to curb methane releases.

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